Nourishment

A to Z Blogging Challenge, the letter N

(Because we have to eat…)

Eating is a part of hiking that has always interested me. (Actually, isn’t eating a part of almost everything, and what’s not to like about that?) It is challenging to plan for a time when physical demands on the body are great and food is… well, scarce.  On this hike, we will have to pack our meals and snacks for three days, carry fuel and gear to cook the food, and make sure we leave no packaging behind. Some of the food needs to be accessible on the trail as we walk. And, of course, we need to carry enough water for drinking as well as cooking. Here’s our plan.

My brother has some “rations”, dried meals, that he wants to use for the nights when we will be in camp. These will be simple, just add hot water and stir, meals that are designed to be high in calories and electrolytes. We know we will be hungrier than usual and the recommendation is to increase our calorie intake by half – 3,000 calories per day at least.  Other than these two evening meals I don’t plan to have to heat anything – that will mean less fuel to carry and less time spent cooking.

Dried or dehydrated meals are really great because they are light.  Our guidelines say our food for the day should only weigh between 1 and 1.5 pounds. If it’s heavier than that, it isn’t the right food.  

The noon meals while hiking will be short stops, so I want to take tuna or chicken in foil packs, and some kind of cracker. We will also be snacking on trail mix, nuts, Kind bars, and dried fruit. I tend to like salty foods rather than sweet while hiking because I know I need the electrolytes. Sodium is especially important to avoid dehydration (see my D post for more on that). Another way I’m going to watch my electrolyte balance is by putting powder Gatorade or similar drink mix in my water.  The flavor helps me drink more of it too.

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Jumbo bag to be split up into zip-locks and carried for snacks on the go.

Other than the foil packs for the dried meals and the tuna/chicken meals, I want to repackage my snacks in zip-locks so I don’t have wrappers to dispose of. I can use the zip-locks to hold whatever trash I do have to haul out. 

Our food guidelines included a few other tips such as:

  • Include some spicy sauces to add to bland foods like rice or instant dried beans
  • Hot cereals are great for breakfast if you have time to boil water
  • Dry instant milk, dried meat like turkey or beef jerky are other dehydrated foods that work well
  • Granola gives some crunchy variety to breakfast or snacks
  • Avoid anything in a can – heavy and you have to carry it out too
  • Avoid fresh fruit that will get bruised, or affected by the heat

Just thinking about all this dried stuff makes me hungry and thirsty for fresh vegetables and fruit and something cold to drink. And that brings me to the final part of the hiking experience that I look forward to – the meal after the return to civilization.  Deprivation heightens appreciation, just sayin’…

Birthday to Remember

April 8th, My Birthday 2019

Do you remember any of your birthdays? How you celebrated? A special gift you received? Someone who surprised you with a visit or a greeting of some kind?

I try to have something memorable happen on my birthday most every year, and I’m willing to come up with it and do it alone if no one is available.  This year I didn’t have to do it alone. My mom and I did something together. We got sick.

Food poisoning, but we can’t figure out what it was for sure. I spent the day barely able to move without passing out.  In spite of being very dehydrated, neither of us wanted to risk putting food or drink into our unstable stomachs.  I spent the day crawling from the bed to the recliner and back again. I cancelled the one appointment for the day – the gym – since there was no energy available for training.  In short, it was not the memorable event I had in mind.  I get a rain check, right?

Today is better. We are both on our feet a little more, but still glad not to have a lot to do today. It is amazing how dependent we are on vital elements, like water. Take away ten pounds of water weight, and I’m barely able to function.  It definitely reminds me of my episode of dehydration on the Appalachian Trail and the recent D post I wrote on dehydration. 

It all makes me think of how we are designed, with enough flexibility to cover the usual ups and downs of life. Most of the time we don’t have to think about how much we’ve eaten or not eaten, or whether we’ve had enough to drink. Food and beverage are available to us on a pretty regular basis, leaving us free to worry about lesser things.

But there are places in this world where it is not so.  What must it feel like to live in a body that is little more than skin and bones, where there is no food or water to be had?  It happens in our own country, where being homeless or in poverty can make it so difficult to be fed with something nutritious.  I was overcome with weakness, loss of motivation, pain and the need to rest somewhere safe.  I can’t imagine being out on the street in a city, or out in a desert village in Africa and trying to survive under those conditions.

I am grateful that I was at home yesterday, recovering slowly as I watched birthday greetings come in on Facebook. I got a delivery of flowers, several cards and a book I had ordered in the mail, a visit from my brother and his kind delivery of some Pedialyte.  I have reasons to remember this birthday, just sayin’…

Another Keto Breakfast

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Two slices of turkey bacon, half an avocado, two poached eggs and some wilted greens with garlic.

In addition to wanting to eat well and be healthy, I want to be frugal and not waste food. This morning I did both by trying a plate from this book, “Fat for Fuel Ketogenic Cookbook” and modifying it to use what was in my refrigerator.  The cookbook does not give calorie count and nutrients for each recipe but I actually found that refreshing. None of the recipes have empty calories and the serving sizes are moderate, so I can focus on enjoying good food instead of counting everything that can be counted.

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I’m a Sam’s Club shopper for many reasons – one being that they carry some good organic fruit, vegetable and salad ingredients.  The husband had shopped there too, right before I returned home from a five-week absence. He had bought their wonderful, but rather large box of spring mix and it was fairly screaming to be used before it died. I decided we would eat greens for breakfast.

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What we call greens is a mysterious bunch of leafy vegetables. They can be the leaves of lettuce, chard, or spinach, or the above ground part of root vegetables like beets or turnips. The mysterious part is that when you eat them fresh and uncooked as in a salad, a couple cups of them look like a lot of food. When you cook a couple cups of them, they wilt and look like a spoonful or two – big difference.  So, if you have a lot of greens to use up, get a recipe calling for wilted greens.

I also buy garlic at Sam’s club even though the bag is, again, rather large. It is a good price however, and having a lot of it makes me search for ways to use it. I know it is good for me. Today’s recipe had garlic and greens, which was perfect.

I wouldn’t ordinarily need instructions for poaching eggs but these instructions were interesting and made sense to me so I tried them. The recipe calls for boiling salted water in the pan, with the addition of 2 teaspoons of vinegar. Next came the interesting part which was to stir and get the water moving in a circular pattern before cracking the eggs into the center.  I’m not sure it made a lot of difference but it made me feel like a fancy cook.

I enjoyed the breakfast. The husband didn’t say anything. I think he is just glad I’m back cooking again.

I’m wondering, what does it take to make you feel like a “fancy cook”? 

The Keto Plate: Almost too Pretty

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Almost too pretty to eat, but no.  Almost too healthy to taste good, but again, no. It was delicious.

As part of my quest for better health for my husband and myself, we have been learning about the ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, the Autoimmune Protocol, and food in general. We’ve been picking and choosing things that are easy to do, changes we can make gradually and, honestly, most of the changes are just common sense. It seems the less our food is tampered with, clean and unprocessed, the better it is for us.

The plates above held dinner for the husband and I one night. It is usually a light meal, eaten as early in the evening as we can manage, and is our last food for the day.  The greens, boiled egg and cauliflower are definite keto foods (on the “yes” list). The onion, bell pepper, tomato and cheese are on the “limit” list. A good dose of olive or avocado oil and a flavorful vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, add to the preparation ritual.

We also have a gratitude ritual before our meal. We pray and thank God for providing such blessings. We know not everyone has access to even simple meals like this.

We relax as we eat. I remind myself to chew slowly and put my fork down between bites. I look at the colors and shapes. These onions are so amazing to look at. They’re purple!

I love to taste the blends of flavors and see how many I can isolate, identify.

The more I know about food and the way my body interacts with it, the more I am conscious of its protective and restorative qualities.  At the same time, being able to identify food that is not good for me, and knowing why it isn’t, helps me avoid it without feeling deprived.

Eating keto, is not only a lifestyle that focuses on unprocessed, low net carb foods and healthy sources of fat,  but it’s actually kind of an attitude of wanting to protect the only body you’ve been given.  I’m glad it’s becoming more mainstream as the evidence mounts showing its effectiveness against cancer and chronic disease.

Today I am thankful that food is colorful, imaginative in structure, varied in it’s composition and taste. Food can be art. Chefs can be artists, and sitting down to a beautiful meal can be as satisfying as strolling through an art gallery.

Food is medicine, and eating the best food you can, every time you can, is how you be your own best health advocate.

Do you have a favorite mealtime ritual or practice?

 

 

 

Keto Plate – Today’s Breakfast “Win”

I was in a terrible food fog yesterday. A food fog is paralyzing. It means you have nothing to eat that really appeals to you, mixed with a bit of fear that there is something detrimental about every choice you might make. We have read so much lately about the AIP for autoimmune issues, the MMT for mitochondrial health, the Grain Brain whole life plan to ward off Alzheimers, the Paleo ”eat like your ancestors” diet, and the Ketogenic anti-cancer diet that we could almost give up on food altogether (if we were not so hungry). There are similarities between them all but they don’t intersect completely, and each one of them seems to do away with one of my favorite foods. Boo.

I realized that having to fix something for myself and the husband to eat was causing enough anxiety to become its own problem. I decided that since we were fearfully and wonderfully made (no lie) that I’d just give the problem to God. My prayer went something like this:

God, make us hungry for the things that are good for us, that are available and as unpolluted as possible, and let us not obsess about figuring it all out. Help us to be smart in our choices, but also trusting that you are smarter and will keep us healthy as long as you need us to be. Amen.

(I don’t know if it’s the Spirit’s leading or not but cupcakes are suddenly on my mind… probably not him.)

I’m feeling a bit better today. I replenished my supply of grass fed beef yesterday and did some cooking. I also had a breakfast “win” this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in cookbooks so I’m going to share it here.

There’s been much said about using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes or rice – same color and general consistency when cooked and blenderized- but how about substituting it for grits? Being raised in northern climates I’ve never done a lot of cooking with grits but I’ve had some I really liked, so this is what I did:

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Nothing precise about measurements here. Steamed cauliflower keeps well in the fridg for several days.

Cauliflower florets, steamed and pureed in blender with

Cream or Half ‘n Half, just enough to keep the food moving in the blender

1 Tbs. of butter, added to blender to melt in

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This happens to be about 4 cups cauliflower and 1/3 cream.

 

1 egg, lightly cooked in butter, not hard

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Mmmmh… so good, and cauliflower “grits” left over for next time.

Put desired amount of cauliflower for one serving in a bowl, dot with another pat of butter and put the egg on top. A little pepper makes it pretty, and salt if you don’t have reason to avoid it. This was so good, so quick (because the cauliflower was left over and already prepared) and a very good nutrient profile for anyone following a ketogenic program (or not – good no matter what!)

How is your eating going today?

Health Advocacy: Today’s Ketogenic Plate

A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat (healthy fats) way of eating. It is similar to a Paleo diet and also has some things in common with the AIP (autoimmune protocol). We are eating this way for weight loss reasons, but it is also a cancer fighting therapy. I’m always running short of ideas on what to make for dinner, so when I do come up with something good, I might as well share it. Right?

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We both had plenty for dinner and there were leftovers for the husband’s lunch tomorrow.

Today’s Ketogenic Plate

This meal starts with ½ of pasture fed ground beef. It’s left over from last night when the husband cooked dinner for me. This doesn’t happen a lot, but I had the procedure on my hand to deal with so he gave me a break. A quarter pound per person is plenty when it comes to red meat, especially if you are eating keto for cancer therapy.

The ground beef is really the only thing I had a measure for. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever you have on hand. My pan contains:

2 large Portobello caps, cut in chunks

1 medium onion, cut in chunks

2 stalks of celery, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

Broccoli, about 2 cups

And cherry tomatoes, for color appeal

Brown the ground beef. In a large pan, melt 2 Tbs. of butter and saute the mushroom pieces. When they started looking dry I put in some avocado oil, another healthy fat.  Add the onion garlic and celery and continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. When the ground beef is browned, add it to the pan. I added the broccoli next and covered the pan to let it steam for another 5 minutes. At the very end I added the tomatoes because I like as many colors in our meal as possible.  Seasoning is to taste and done at the table in our house so each person knows what he’s eating.

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I love this salad and eat it last. It’s almost like dessert.

Add a salad with romaine, cucumber and kiwi for Wednesday’s ketogenic plate.

 

Our journey to eating “keto” has been helped by these resources: “The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan” by Dr. David Perlmutter, “Fat for Fuel” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD and “The Ketogenic Kitchen” by Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly

 

 

Being Your Own Health Advocate: Food

I can see a series of posts taking form on this subject, since I don’t want any of them to be overly long. I’m going to keep coming back to the subject because my passion is growing…

It’s fuel.

I don’t cook for fun. I cook because people have to eat. It’s more about fuel for life than what it used to be – for me anyway.

I didn’t used to think about food very much at all in my younger years. If it tasted good, I ate it. I knew about the rudiments of nutrition and ate what I thought was good for me, along with other things that I knew probably weren’t. My philosophy was that happiness was like a medicine, and if a food made me happy, it was probably canceling out any poor nutritional qualities. I had the benefit of growing up on a farm where my family grew/raised a lot of unprocessed food too. I was seldom sick and never had a problem with weight control.

For a few years in the early 2000’s I worked for the FNP, Food and Nutrition Program, of the University Extension Service of the University of Florida. I started taking the Food Pyramid, dictated by the government food police (kidding) into elementary schools and teaching it to youngsters. I taught Nutrition and Food Preparation to young mothers in a Head Start program. I started becoming aware of the problems Americans were having with food. Obesity at young ages, hyperactivity and ADHD were prevalent in so many schoolrooms.  Even when presented with a decent school lunch, children were turning up their noses and throwing away the most nutritious foods. Often families in trouble with Social Services were being court ordered to learn how to prepare meals to feed their children properly.

By default, people were eating the Standard American Diet, acronym SAD, and it was sad. When I started having health problems that I could relate to diet and lifestyle, I started getting a bit more serious about what I fed myself.  The overweight husband also developed problems with blood pressure and needed medicines which were hard to regulate. Friends and family members started getting diagnoses of GERD and cancer and diabetes. Time started wearing out our natural defenses. I began to hear more about food as therapy. I also began hearing about how many times nutritional advice was influenced by factors other than benefits to health – like, who decides what the Food Pyramid looks like and funny how it keeps changing…

I guess what I think now can be illustrated with the example of a machine, say a really nice new car.  If I take it in on schedule to be serviced I’m doing good. But, the thing that I do most often, and that will make the most difference, is to put fuel in it. Different cars have different fuel requirements that are important to follow. If I put in a grade of gasoline other than what is recommended for clean burning, I’m going to see problems after a while. Waste products build up in the engine.  The car gets sick.

Friends, readers, we are that complex, finely designed machine. Our computer, our emissions systems, our energy production equipment, our whole body is affected by every little thing we put in our mouth.

We are designed to take a lot of nutritional abuse – there are buffering systems, safeguards of all kinds in place – but sooner or later those back-up systems will have taken all the abuse that they can. If we don’t want to be sick or prematurely dead, we must study what’s happening in our “machine” with the fuels we use.

This was the beginning of my journey into food research and the resulting health trends. I don’t have to spend hours at it. I don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. I don’t have to wait until I’m sick with a serious problem. I don’t have to ask my doctor for every new pill I see advertised in the media.  I eat every day, and that is where the changes should, and can, start.

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I’m not necessarily recommending any of these older books – some of the best and newest information is free on the internet, or at the library.

I started by saying that I don’t cook for fun, when I actually do have fun doing it sometimes. But fun is not the main point anymore. Getting the best fuel possible has become the point, just sayin’…

 

 

Your Best Advocate

Of course I’d like to be a better writer. For a while, as I try to be better, I’m going to at least try to be prolific. They say that if you write a lot, you have a much better chance that some of it will be good. If you write seldom (or not at all), none of it will be, so be writing. That’s my goal.

 

You have to be your own health care advocate. If you find that impossible, make one good choice – someone you trust to advocate for you. This is not a new revelation to me, but newly reinforced by my recent wellness checkup with my primary care office.

I’m somewhat of a rebel, offspring of a family that believed that 99% of what’s wrong with us heals itself if not aggravated by medicine. This mindset was pretty well in place in my high school years so I don’t know what made me choose nursing as a career. It was mostly that I was fascinated by how complex human anatomy, biology and physiology were, and because someone gave me “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” for Christmas one year. Cherry was the medical world’s answer to Nancy Drew.

Nursing has given me an inside look into the strange reasons why some things are done the way they are. The reasons are many and complex. You can’t always figure them out. What’s more, sooner or later, what’s good for you is going to come into conflict with what’s good for someone else. It’s nice to know at that point if you have options and what they are.

The husband and I are at the age where we have more time to devote to our physical condition, and it’s a good thing being that it’s also the age where there’s some new thing going wrong every week. We are still moving around under our own steam and able to read so we are researching. I read to him in the evenings, after we walk, and we discuss health issues and diets, sleep, exercise, medicines – all of that.

Without going into too much detail in this post, suffice it to say that we see a lot of new research that flies in the face of traditional thought about these issues. It seems that what we’ve been doing traditionally for the last half century or so has created an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Oh, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Oh, and autism. Oh, and autoimmune disorders. And cancer. At some fundamental level, we are a very sick country.

Having decided to get smarter about simple things we could do to help ourselves avoid as much sickness as possible, we are starting with eating differently.

I was sitting with the PA who was doing my wellness questionnaire and telling him some of these things. I told him how I was limiting carbohydrates by cutting out most bread and sources of sugar. I mentioned ketogenic diet and how I’d lost ten pounds on it.  I told how it was a high fat, moderate protein, lo-carb diet, and that I was feeling pretty good overall. He nodded and appeared to be listening (how do I know what he’s thinking…). We talked about stress relief and I told him that I dispelled it by writing for my blog. Then he wrapped up the interview with “Okay, just keep doing what you’re doing and keep on that low fat diet.” Sigh.

Traditional advice is not always for everyone. Sometimes, it’s not even true or based on real evidence. I’m going to end this post in the same way I started it. You have to be your own health care advocate because no one doctor or health professional can concentrate on what’s good for you. You are it.

More to come on this and related subjects.

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Blood pressure gradually creeping up – that’s what first caught my attention. Just sayin’…

Ordinary Times and Travels: What we eat in Seattle, post 9

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After the hammer…

“This is the first time in my 35 years that I have heard that peanuts are not nuts.” he said.

Esther’s friend made dinner for us tonight and we were standing around in the kitchen talking about “the diet project”, the AIP.  He had been interested enough to read up about it and had chosen a couple recipes from our cookbook to make, giving us the night off.  He did a bang up job and we appreciated it, a lot!

We have been following the AutoImmune Protocol for almost two weeks now, and although I think it is going fairly well, we are starting to have serious cravings for things on the “no” list, things we used to love to eat, things high on fun, satiety and comfort, but low (possibly devoid of…) nutrients.  It’s a little early to know if we feel healthier, but how could we be otherwise? That’s what I’m asking myself.

For certain, more food has come through the door of this house in the last two weeks than in similar time periods. We seem to be shopping all the time. Yet, it’s a struggle to figure out what to eat when mealtimes come around. Sometimes what we have is not the mental picture of a meal that we have been used to, so it doesn’t seem like a meal.  Thankfully, mental pictures can be changed – in fact, that is what it’s all about when you decide to take on a new way of eating. Can we stick with it until we’ve had time to change our ideas of satisfying eating? Good question.

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Yum?

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Breakfast is a difficult meal because traditionally, it’s all about grains, dairy and eggs of some sort, none of which are on our diet. We have avocado, sweet potato, turkey bacon. We need to work on our smoothie repertoire a little more.

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The lovely, nontraditional breakfast

We knew we were going to have to use more coconut in various ways so Esther ordered two young coconuts in our Amazon Fresh order.  I googled instructions on how to get into them because, frankly, looking at them doesn’t give a clue. The steps seemed simple, just hack away the outer white layer until you see a light colored “spot” where you can press your knife and make a hole. I made quite a mess doing all that cutting and got to a rock-hard layer where no more cutting was possible. But, someone forgot to put a “spot” on my coconut and I had to drill a hole with the tip of my knife.  So I had a hole, but nothing was coming out of it – until I made a second hole for air to come in. See, when you learn stuff like that in Physics class they don’t tell you that you’ll need it when you encounter coconuts.

There was at least 10 ounces of coconut water inside this coconut so Esther and I both had a good drink. However, there had to be more to eat than just the water. I knew it would take more than tiny holes to get the insides out so I took it out on the sidewalk and smashed a big hole with a  hammer. The inside of a young coconut is soft, shiny, semi-translucent and white (pretty really). I like it. Esther… not so much.

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Esther’s fake bacon substitute.

Esther has discovered which meats she is able to tolerate most easily, and I have to hand it to her. For a vegetarian, she is doing great. She has had some kind of meat protein almost twice every day. As a vegetarian, she would eat burgers made of soy or black beans, and she would eat fake bacon, also a soy product. As an AIP girl she is bothered least by fake soyburgers (read real beef burgers) and fake soy bacon (real meat bacon) because they look similar to what she has grown accustomed to eating. See, it’s all in your mind.  She eats tuna. I don’t know what it is about chicken though. For her, it begins with the smell and only gets worse with the sight and taste. I’m afraid I will be eating the roast chicken all by myself. Getting to like chicken will take some work.

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I love meat and have no problem with cooking it, but I wish it were less messy. What to do with all the fat and how to get it off the dishes and counters is a battle.  I’ve made three batches of bone broth but so far, no one has gotten into drinking it straight.  It is kind of piling up in the fridge.  I froze some of it in our ice cube trays, causing a near unhappy moment when Esther went to get ice cubes.

What else hasn’t worked… yes, the coconut Greek yogurt. I’m not sure you can make yogurt out of anything other than real milk, but there was a recipe, so Esther tried it. The black probiotic culture she added to it looked strange but we were able to think of it as specks of vanilla bean (also not on the diet). After culturing overnight in a warm place it was still coconut cream liquid. But it tastes great poured over bananas or the apple/cranberry compote we made. Fake yogurt, this also will take some work.

I don’t mean to say that we haven’t discovered some really good, simple recipes that I am happy to add to my regular cooking line up. I wrote about the Nomato Sauce in a previous post. Tonight we had a cauliflower dish that easily takes the place of fried rice, and some steak flavored with coconut aminos that was so flavorful.  One good thing we have both noticed is that we do not feel distressed after eating, no uncomfortable fullness, and of course, we are not gaining weight.  I am happy to see Esther able to tolerate meals without pain, and she is eating more good, nutritious food than I have ever noticed before.